The Bayesian Man and the Sea

6 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018 Last revised: 30 Dec 2018

See all articles by F. E. Guerra-Pujol

F. E. Guerra-Pujol

University of Central Florida; Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico

Date Written: July 11, 2018


The Old Man and the Sea is a timeless classic. One of Ernest Hemingway’s most famous works, it tells the story of Santiago--a poor, proud, and aging Cuban fisherman--and his epic solitary battle with a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream. In a previous paper (Guerra-Pujol, 2016), we showed that the character of Santiago in Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece was most likely a composite of three different Cuban fishermen. Here, we shall enter the littoral world of the story itself and explore the logic of Santiago’s “decision calculus”--i.e. his fateful decision to set sail after going 84 days without catching a single fish--through the lens of subjective probability. For in addition to its aesthetic, literary, and moral qualities, Hemingway’s beautiful novella may also offer a hidden tribute to subjective or Bayesian probability.

Keywords: Bayes’ Rule, Hemingway, Santiago, Subjective Probability, The Old Man and the Sea

JEL Classification: B49, D81, Q22

Suggested Citation

Guerra-Pujol, F. E., The Bayesian Man and the Sea (July 11, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

F. E. Guerra-Pujol (Contact Author)

University of Central Florida ( email )

Orlando, FL 32816
United States


Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico ( email )

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